Therefore, brothers and sisters,] since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
The old pun on the word ‘therefore’ was that we should always ask what it is there for. That was never more true than the ‘therefore’ we have here in 10:19. In our last study we noted two things: that Jesus sat down at the right hand of Father God thus indicating his superiority over all; and that this is based on the new covenant, the newly declared purpose and will of God towards his people.
For our writer this was all brilliantly pictured in the way that, as Jesus died on the cross, the veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom (Matthew 27: 51). This was the work of God; if a man had been responsible it would have been done from bottom to top. The purpose of the veil had been to keep everyone out of the Most Holy Place, where God was. Only the High Priest went into this presence of God once a year on the day of atonement. That was now redundant. Everyone, or at least all the Lord’s people, now had clear unlimited access to the most holy place, which was Jesus. It is hard to see how the flesh of Jesus can be a way through the curtain. It was his blood shed which was effective. The Jerusalem temple was where God was, more than anywhere else on earth. No longer. Now it was in Jesus that God was to be found and, in the person of the Holy Spirit of Jesus, in every believing person. We have, so to speak, not to travel to Jerusalem to find God, but to reach down into ourselves. That must be counted both a huge privilege and a huge responsibility.
However we need to be careful. The next few verses say, “ let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Of those four things keeping our bodies washed would be by far the easiest if it didn’t really mean keeping our souls and spirits clean - nothing to do with soap, I’m afraid!
More significantly, note how the quotation starts with our faith and ends with the faithfulness of the Lord. This is our confidence. It does not have to rest solely on us but draws continuous strength from one who is a great deal more reliable than we tend to be.
When we get to 10:24, 25 we have “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” To give a picture of this: you can have a good going fire with many pieces of coal on it. But if you take one red-hot piece out of the fire and place it on the hearth all by itself it will very soon darken, cool, and lose all its heat. So it is with us if we remove ourselves from the company of other followers of Jesus.